From a logistical standpoint, the copywriter’s job is very straightforward. Here’s a glimpse at how many marketing departments are set up, so you get an idea of where the copywriter fits in.
In the corporations I’ve worked for, copywriters (also called staff writers, a term I really despise) are on the lowest end of the totem pole—with the exception of interns. If the copywriting team includes more than one person, the person with the most experience may receive the title of “senior copywriter,” which leaves the junior copywriter title to the other writer(s).
Senior copywriters typically help supervise/mentor the junior copywriters while taking on the larger, more difficult projects (print projects requiring communication with a printer, etc.). If you get lucky, your senior copywriting companion will become a great friend and career mentor along the way. If you get really lucky, you’ll be the only copywriter and can get a wide range of experience without much competition for projects.
Above the copywriters is the marketing & communications manager, who reports to the marketing director, who typically reports to the CEO. In some companies, the creative services department (the design team) is also a part of the marketing department. That was my experience with my first copywriting job (at a startup company), but it wasn’t with my second.
Being last in line means that we typically get paid the least in the department (insert frowny face here); however, that doesn’t mean we are any less talented, skilled, or important. Copywriters are responsible for doing most of the actual tangible creative work, while the managers’ time and energy is focused on attending company meetings/events, researching project possibilities, and organizing project information and ideas. (All in all, I think I’d rather get paid less to do more of what I love.) If all goes well, everyone supports and lifts one another in their individual roles and makes the process that much smoother. It can be a really fun team environment to work in.
I think you could safely say that, generally, those above you were once junior copywriters (or in some other role on the low end of the marketing-department ladder) and have since gained valuable years in the work/industry as they’ve progressed up the department ladder. As a result, they know what your job entails, how to support you most effectively, and how to do their job well, too.
I can tell you, however, that there are times when a senior copywriter or manager (1) has equal or fewer skills than you (and may still feel comfortable sticking his/her title in your face) or (2) has the experience and know-how but is just downright lazy. In either instance, you may end up doing both the copy direction and the work (without much credit for the extra effort), even though you are getting paid a lot less than they are. It happens to the best of us. My advice would be to work whatever challenges you encounter to your advantage. Having a lazy or incompetent senior copywriter/manager sucks, but it’s also a great opportunity to build a solid reputation quickly, try new things, and start collecting awesome portfolio samples for the future. Who can say no to that?
With that said, even if senior copywriters or managers lack in certain areas (as nerve-wracking as that may be), it can be extremely refreshing to have someone who supports your work, takes all the heat when trouble arises, and is always there to bounce ideas off.
My guess is that the structure of every marketing department you encounter will be similar, with a few differences here and there. Even then, your copywriting responsibilities will probably remain unchanged (with the addition of a few hats, depending upon the company’s needs). The key to success here is talent and a passion for writing and editing. You didn’t get into writing to make millions. You got into writing because you wouldn’t have it any other way. Copywriting, in particular, can be an extremely lucrative form of writing, which can make it even more satisfying over the long haul. If you can survive the corporate drama, that is.Read More
For three years, I worked as a professional in-house copywriter/editor, so I’ve been around the block before. Since I have some familiarity with the industry, I’d like to talk more about my experience with copywriting, to give you a sense of what it is and if it’s for you.
There are a lot of rumors floating around about just what a copywriter is and does (some of them true; most of them not), so let me start us off on the same page here and define the term copywriter as I see it.
copywriter. n. A staff writer in the marketing department of a corporation; the person or people responsible for the creation of the company’s copy (which is coupled with design to create a coherent marketing piece for customers)
Copywriting, then, would include all of those marketing projects that a company creates in order to find/attract and educate customers on its products and services. Since companies have tons of options these days when it comes to marketing, a copywriter’s projects typically span a wide variety of media: everything from social media, blogs, and websites to announcements and emails to printed/electronic brochures, catalogs, magazine/newsletter articles, and flyers. If the company is small, the copywriter might also take on advertisements, film scripts, press releases, media kits, etc—projects that are typically done by an advertising, film, or public relations specialist.
And you can’t forget the final act for every writing job: editing. Everything you write also needs to be superbly edited by you. In fact (and this has been the case for me many a time), you may be one of the only employees in the entire company who knows how to edit. In that case, you’ll be responsible for all company editing on top of your writing projects. (Since this happens to be one of my favorite parts of the job, however, I never minded the added responsibility.)
As one co-worker and I liked to put it, corporate writers and designers (and trainers and illustrators) are the creative talent. No, we aren’t managers (some people seem to think that’s important), but we bring our unique skills to the table and those skills carry the company along. Without copywriters and designers, there would be no communication, so it’s a pretty important place to be in an organization. And if you like to write, it can be a bucket of fun, too.Read More